By Justin St. Peter
March 30, 2016
After three straight Regionals appearances, including a trip to the NCAA D-III Championships last year, the UW-Whitewater Warhawks softball team heads into uncharted waters with just two seniors on this year’s team.
Still, the ’Hawks insist they have plenty of experience on this year’s squad with a host of juniors ready to push the team that has been picked to win the WIAC conference for the third year in a row.
“I want to be a good leader to the team,” junior first baseman Amy Ricci said. “With our two seniors and my entire junior class, we are doing a good job in trying to lead the team in the direction that we want. We did a good job in Florida; our team meshes so well together off the field which is important.”
The ’Hawks began the season in Clermont, Florida, for a spring trip and ended with 7-4 record.
UW-W started off with a pair of double-header victories, 3-1 against Heidelberg University and 7-0 versus Kalamazoo College.
Junior pitcher Stephanie Waller earned the ’Hawks first victory of the year, pitching seven innings, against Heidelberg. Ricci brought the go-ahead run across the board in the sixth inning with a sacrifice fly before they added an insurance run right after.
The Warhawks poured it on in immediately against Kalamazoo, with four runs in the first inning and pushing three more across in the fourth. Freshman starter Julia Camardo earned her first career win, pitching four innings.
The Warhawks bats then quieted over the next three games as they suffered a three-game losing streak to St. Thomas University, St. Scholastica College, and Elmhurst College, tallying a combined three runs.
“Five out of the 11 games, we hit like crazy and scored a bunch of runs,” head coach Brenda Volk said. “The other six games, we kind of struggled a little bit. We left a lot of people on base and didn’t get that big hit. It either seemed like we were very hot or not. I do think that is going to come.”
Volk would know as she enters her 18th season at the helm of the ’Hawks. She has the most wins in WIAC history at 535 and counting, and has only presided over one losing record in her time with UW-W.
Volk’s talk about being hot or not was true as the ’Hawks offense exploded for 15 and 11 runs in doubleheader victories against Benedictine University and Millikin University respectively on March 22.
Freshman centerfielder Caitlin Catino went a combined 7-7 from the plate in the two games, including a two-run triple and a stolen base. Ricci knocked in five RBI’s to lead the Warhawks in blowout victories.
“It was our first time seeing live pitching,” Ricci said. “I think people needed to get some of their nerves out. There were two games where we scored over 20 runs, so the offense is there. Once we get more disciplined and learn the pitches that we are looking for, I think we are going to be very successful.”
The Warhawks then lost 2-0 to Fontbonne University before exacting revenge against St. Scholastica with a 4-1 victory.
Ending the spring trip with one more offensive explosion, the UW-W beat Lawrence University 13-3 before blowing out St. Norbert College 13-2 on March 24.
“I think we found a lot of things out in Florida about what they can do and what their strengths are,” Volk said. “We still have been jumping around with a right fielder and our DP, trying to figure out a few last combinations.”
Volk said she was pleased with how her team performed.
“We were in a position to win every game down there,” Volk said. “Had we had a couple of hits here or there, we would have come away with more W’s.”
The Warhawks next game is March 30 at 3 p.m. vs. Carthage College before they head to Illinois for games against North Central College and the University of Chicago on April 2 and 3.
Look for the Royal Purple for continuing coverage of the UW-W softball team.